HC Deb 14 May 1968 vol 764 cc1035-7
Q6. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister why he designated the Patronage Secretary to be Deputy Leader of the House.

The Prime Minister

Because this seemed to me to be in all respects an appropriate appointment, Sir.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

But, in view of the Leader of the House's responsibility to maintain the rights of private Members, is it not wrong for his deputy to be the member of the Executive concerned with patronage and necessarily its most partisan member? What is the point of this innovation?

The Prime Minister

In the first place, I thought that it might be for the greater convenience of the House. Secondly, I thought that it was about time that we got away from the ancient doctrine that Chief Whips should never be heard in the House. We all like hearing our Chief Whips, of all parties. The hon. Gentleman will know that it has not been our practice in office to give lavish awards of patronage to sitting Members. It is a complete change in practice from that of our predecessors.

With regard to the Leader of the House's responsibility to the House as a whole and the difficulty that he should also have a party position, it was the Conservative Party, not us, which had two successive Leaders of the House who were Chairmen of the Conservative Party, which we were recently told is a full-time job.

Mr. Shinwell

Does it follow from my right hon. Friend's reply that in future the Chief Whip, instead of being non-vocal as Chief Whips have been in the past, will reply to questions on, for example, matters of discipline and patronage?

The Prime Minister

If it were necessary owing to the unavoidable absence of the Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend, of course, could appropriately answer any questions which are correctly addressed to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I do not think that they would go quite as wide as those which my right hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Prime Minister aware that we welcome the way in which the Government have copied the example set by the Liberal Party for so long about not requiring Whips to remain silent? We look forward to the time when the third party in the House joins this new exercise.

The Prime Minister

We are always glad to hear from the third party in the House through its Chief Whip on any appropriate occasion. I should remind the hon. Gentleman that when we were in opposition I started the practice—rather late in those years, I agree—of inviting the then Opposition Chief Whip to take part in debates, particularly on Parliamentary procedure and Parliamentary reform. I think that this is much welcomed by the House and will be welcomed generally.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most hon. Members will not object to hearing the Chief Whip or any other Whip, but they may object to what is said by them?

The Prime Minister

That question is not necessarily limited to the Chief Whip of any party or to any spokesman for any party.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the Prime Minister tell the House now what full-time job Lord Wigg is to do in the Government?